San Francisco Opera Medal Awarded to Geoffry M. Craig

by Michael Eddy
Opera Medal recipient Geoffry Craig with Music Director Nicola Luisotti and General Director Matthew Shilvock. Photo by: Drew Altizer
Opera Medal recipient Geoffry Craig with Music Director Nicola Luisotti and General Director Matthew Shilvock. Photo by: Drew Altizer

At the conclusion of the June 27 performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto, San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock presented the Company’s Head of Wardrobe, Geoffry M. Craig, with the San Francisco Opera Medal, the Company’s highest honor. Craig will retire at the end of summer season after 36 years, having joined the Wardrobe Department in 1981 as a dresser, becoming Head of Men’s Wardrobe in 1986 and then Department Head in 1999.

 “In over three decades of exemplary service, Geoffry has led the Wardrobe Department with great professionalism, heart and care,” said Shilvock. “His exacting rigor and compassionate understanding have been critical in allowing us to present some of the finest performances in the world, night after night, on the War Memorial stage. I am so honored to present Geoffry with the Opera Medal and formally acknowledge his tireless dedication to excellence at San Francisco Opera.”

Opera Medal recipient Geoffry Craig bows with the cast of RigolettoAs the person in charge of dressing hundreds of soloists, chorus members, and supernumeraries each season, Craig summarized his work in the Wardrobe Department: “It’s all about the details. We check every garment, every closure, every hem, every time. That’s the job.” The theatrical illusion presented onstage at the War Memorial Opera House is achieved, in part, due to the organizational acumen and thoroughness of Craig and his staff, which includes four assistants and anywhere from 19 to 35 dressers depending on the size of the production. Leaving nothing to chance, the Wardrobe Department works to achieve the director’s vision down to the smallest details of presentation and they are also responsible for ensuring the comfort of each performer in their costumes.

A native of Indiana, Craig earned early experience dressing performers at the Pasadena Playhouse. In 1981, a friend who knew about Craig’s theatrical experience asked if he would like to work on San Francisco Opera’s ambitious new production of Verdi’s Aida with Margaret Price in the title role and Luciano Pavarotti as Radames. Craig agreed, but a cancellation backstage led to him making his “debut” a month earlier than expected. He filled in to dress some of the supporting roles in the San Francisco Opera premiere of Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow starring Joan Sutherland.

When asked if there were any productions during his 36-year tenure that tested the limits of his foolproof organizational system, Craig did not hesitate: Prokofiev’s War and Peace in 1991. “There were 135 supernumerary men in the show—the Russian and French armies! We had to dress them at Zellerbach rehearsal space and then march them in formation to the opera house and out onto the stage.” For Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele in 2013, Craig supervised a “quick change” of 150 cast members from the prologue to the carnival scene of Act I.

About the San Francisco Opera Medal
Inaugurated in 1970 by former General Director Kurt Herbert Adler, the San Francisco Opera Medal is awarded at the discretion of the Company for artistic integrity and distinguished service to San Francisco Opera. Geoffry Craig joins the company of past recipients of the award which includes sopranos Dorothy Kirsten and Joan Sutherland, mezzo-sopranos Frederica von Stade and Susan Graham, tenor Plácido Domingo, baritone Thomas Stewart, conductors Donald Runnicles and Sir Charles Mackerras, directors John Copley and Francesca Zambello and Chorus Director Ian Robertson, among others. The most recent recipient of the Opera Medal was the Company’s Chorus and Dance Manager, Jim Meyer, who received the award in December 2016.

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